When Jordan Morgan first played in Ann Arbor he was a slow, overweight, uncoordinated redshirted freshman power forward from Detroit. He would fumble post entry passes, and clumsily lose control of rebounds. When watching Morgan one would be filled with a sense of unease. His play made onlookers uncomfortable, and Michigan fans frustrated.
There was always talent, though. Nobody said he did not possess potential, he had enormous raw talent. He just couldn’t use that talent, yet. When playing against top teams, and their top big men Morgan would often get in foul trouble early. Against lesser competition his raw talent presented itself.
He scored 20 points against Gardner Webb and 23 against Concordia. This was partly due to the fact Michigan had no other good big men, causing Morgan to play 24 minutes a game as a freshman. Everyone knew that Morgan could become a very good big man, no one knew if he would.
Last season, as a sophomore, Morgan plateaued. At times he played better, but not significantly. He did, however, look more comfortable playing. There was still hope with Morgan, and rightly so.
Finally this season, Morgan looks like what he is capable of being. It has only been three games, all against lesser competition. But, it is not the stats that are particularly impressive. Instead it is the fact that Morgan finally looks comfortable, and aggressive. He has a new sense of confidence, that allows him to use his skill and size to make plays. Morgan slimmed down, making him quicker and lighter in the paint. That lets him get set in time to take a charge instead of being called for a block.
Tuesday night, in the first half, Morgan reached around and poked the ball away from a Cleveland State big man. This created a turnover and a fast break layup. Morgan did not do anything special, but his new quickness allowed for All-American Trey Burke to get a transition layup. That is the impact Morgan can make.
Morgan now seems capable of truly matching up with the best bigs in the Big 10. He can stick with Cody Zeller, Trevor Mbakwe and Derrick Nix.
There is one important thing to remember; Mitch McGary. McGary is the super athletic freshman power forward who at one point was rated the second best recruit in the country. He can jump out of the building and plays as hard as anyone. It will be interesting to see if McGary starts to cut in to Morgan’s minutes as the season goes on.
But, Morgan’s evolution is not seen in the numbers, exactly. It is seen on defense, playing in transition, and on loose balls. McGary might be the new hot big man in Ann Arbor, but come conference play, when John Beilein wants someone who can guard Zeller with two minutes left in a tied game, who do you think he is choosing?
Though Morgan’s minutes might shrink, his impact should grow. He is better, whether or not he scores and rebounds more. There is a new influx if talent for Michigan, but third year starter Jordan Morgan will be as important as any new freshman. After all, this is a new Morgan.